A criminal investigation has been launched into the conduct of two South Australian police officers after an older man was tasered and pepper-sprayed at an aged care facility.
The incident took place with resident Mick Francis, who is in his 60s and lives with Huntington’s disease, at an unnamed care home in Adelaide’s south on October 26.
On Tuesday, South Australian Police (SAPOL) confirmed an altercation took place between two officers and Mr Francis (who was not named at the time of the statement) at the facility and that a Taser and oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray was deployed to arrest him. Mr Francis sustained minor injuries during the arrest and is in hospital for treatment.
On Sunday, a complaint was lodged with the Office for Public Integrity and SAPOL over the incident. After reviewing bodycam footage, police investigators identified “concerns” and began criminal and disciplinary investigations.
Officers delivered the footage to Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, who has declared a Commissioner’s Inquiry into the incident.
On Wednesday, Mr Stevens authorised the release of CCTV footage capturing the incident, showing two officers dragging Mr Francis out of the property and physically restraining him. The footage shows one officer allegedly kneeing Mr Francis in order to restrain him. Paramedics were also on the scene.
The decision to release the footage to the media comes after SAPOL released a statement on Tuesday claiming protocol prohibited the disclosure or publication of information on such matters, but Mr Stevens decided it was in the public interest to disclose the incident and complaint.
“However, the commissioner has determined to authorise both the disclosure and publication of the above information in relation to this complaint, as it is in the public interest to do so.
“No further information in relation to this incident is to be disclosed or published, pursuant to the Police Complaints and Discipline Act.”
This incident follows NSW aged care resident who lived with dementia Clare Nowland being allegedly tasered by police in May. As a result, Ms Nowland fell and hit her head and died in hospital from her injuries.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams said the inquiry would be led by a senior police officer but would be overseen by the independent Office for Public Integrity.
Additionally, the incident was allegedly not reported up the chain of command and it took a public complaint to set the investigation in process.
The Deputy Commissioner said this would also be investigated.
“I think you can read from the response that there is a level of concern that justified a commissioner’s inquiry,” she said.
At the time, Ms Williams would not disclose whether the man was a resident of the facility or a worker and said the inquiry would take as long as it needed to gain clarity into what happened on October 26. She expressed confidence in how SAPOL officers deployed force.
Ms Williams said, “I’m confident that in the majority of cases, police officers exercise those authorities appropriately.”
The two officers have been removed from duty with full pay for the duration of the investigation.
Mr Francis’ family is seeking legal advice following the alleged incident.